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Men with stolen passports on jet 'not terrorists'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Two men traveling with stolen passports on a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner were Iranians who had bought tickets to Europe and were probably not terrorists, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The announcement is likely to dampen, at least for now, speculation that the disappearance of the Boeing 777 was linked to terrorism. Police said both men bought their tickets in Thailand and entered Malaysia together.

No debris from the plane has been found. On Tuesday, baffled authorities expanded their search to the opposite side of Malaysia from where it disappeared more than three days ago with 239 people on board.

The airline says the pilots did not send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden and possibly catastrophic incident. Speculation has ranged widely about possible causes, including pilot error, plane malfunction, hijacking and terrorism.

Malaysia Flight: Iranian Suspects 'Probably Not Terrorists'

News that two of the passengers were traveling with stolen passports immediately fueled speculation of foul play. However, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference Tuesday that investigators had determined one was a 19-year-old Iranian, Pouria Nourmohammadi Mehrdad, and that it seemed likely that he was planning to migrate to Germany.

"We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group," Khalid said.

Interpol identified the second man as a 29-year-old Iranian and released an image of the two boarding a plane at the same time. Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said the two men traveled to Malaysia on their Iranian passports, then apparently switched to their stolen Austrian and Italian documents.

He said speculation of terrorism appeared to be dying down "as the belief becomes more certain that these two individuals were probably not terrorists."

Khalid said the 19-year-old man's mother was waiting for him in Frankfurt and had been in contact with police. He said she contacted Malaysian authorities to inform them of her concern when her son didn't get in touch with her.

He also said there was no truth to a statement by at least one other government official that five passengers had checked in for the flight but never boarded the airplane.

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing. It flew across Malaysia into the Gulf of Thailand at 35,000 feet (11,000 meters) and then disappeared from radar screens.

Authorities have said the plane may have attempted to turn back toward Kuala Lumpur.

The hunt began on Saturday near the plane's last known location. But with no debris found there, the search has been systematically expanded to include areas the plane could have reached with the fuel it had on board. That is a vast area in which to locate something as small as a piece of an aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines said search and rescue teams have expanded the scope beyond the flight path to the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia's western coast and Indonesia's Sumatra island - the opposite side of Malaysia from its last known location.

An earlier statement said the western coast of Malaysia was "now the focus," but the airline subsequently said that phrase was an oversight.

"The search is on both sides," Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said.

The search currently includes nine aircraft and 24 ships from nine countries that have been scouring the Gulf of Thailand on the eastern side of Malaysia. Land areas also are being searched.

China, where two-thirds of the passengers are from, urged Malaysian authorities on Tuesday to "speed up the efforts" to find the plane. It has sent four ships, with another four on the way.

A shopping mall in Beijing suspended advertising on its large outdoor LED screen to display a search timer - an image of an airplane along with a digital clock marking the time since contact with the flight was lost.

Assuming the plane crashed into the ocean or disintegrated in midair, there will likely still be debris floating in the ocean, but it may be widely spread out, and much may have already sunk. In past disasters, it has taken days or longer to find wreckage.

The United States has sent two navy ships, at least one of which is equipped with helicopters, and a Navy P-3C Orion plane with sensors that can detect small debris in the water. It said in a statement that the Malaysian government has done "tremendous job" organizing the land and sea search effort.

Vietnamese planes and ships are also taking part.

Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese People's Army, said authorities on land had also been ordered to search for the plane, which could have crashed into mountains or uninhabited jungle. He said military units near the border with Laos and Cambodia had been instructed to search their regions also.

"So far we have found no signs ... so we must widen our search," he said.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
k.clinton1 March 11 2014 at 8:58 AM

the world mus work together to be able to know what actually happen to these people.may their soul rest in peace

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luckasa March 11 2014 at 7:40 AM

• Fact #1: All Boeing 777 commercial jets are equipped with black box recorders that can survive any on-board explosion

No explosion from the plane itself can destroy the black box recorders. They are bomb-proof structures that hold digital recordings of cockpit conversations as well as detailed flight data and control surface data.

• Fact #2: All black box recorders transmit locator signals for at least 30 days after falling into the ocean

Yet the black box from this particular incident hasn't been detected at all. That's why investigators are having such trouble finding it. Normally, they only need to "home in" on the black box transmitter signal. But in this case, the absence of a signal means the black box itself -- an object designed to survive powerful explosions -- has either vanished, malfunctioned or been obliterated by some powerful force beyond the worst fears of aircraft design engineers.

• Fact #3: Many parts of destroyed aircraft are naturally bouyant and will float in water

In past cases of aircraft destroyed over the ocean or crashing into the ocean, debris has always been spotted floating on the surface of the water. That's because -- as you may recall from the safety briefing you've learned to ignore -- "your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device."

Yes, seat cushions float. So do many other non-metallic aircraft parts. If Flight 370 was brought down by an explosion of some sort, there would be massive debris floating on the ocean, and that debris would not be difficult to spot. The fact that it has not yet been spotted only adds to the mystery of how Flight 370 appears to have literally vanished from the face of the Earth.

• Fact #4: If a missile destroyed Flight 370, the missile would have left a radar signature

One theory currently circulating on the 'net is that a missile brought down the airliner, somehow blasting the aircraft and all its contents to "smithereens" -- which means very tiny pieces of matter that are undetectable as debris.

The problem with this theory is that there exists no known ground-to-air or air-to-air missile with such a capability. All known missiles generate tremendous debris when they explode on target. Both the missile and the debris produce very large radar signatures which would be easily visible to both military vessels and air traffic authorities.

• Fact #5: The location of the aircraft when it vanished is not a mystery

Air traffic controllers have full details of almost exactly where the aircraft was at the moment it vanished. They know the location, elevation and airspeed -- three pieces of information which can readily be used to estimate the likely location of debris.

Remember: air safety investigators are not stupid people. They've seen mid-air explosions before, and they know how debris falls. There is already a substantial data set of airline explosions and crashes from which investigators can make well-educated guesses about where debris should be found. And yet, even armed with all this experience and information, they remain totally baffled on what happened to Flight 370.

• Fact #6: If Flight 370 was hijacked, it would not have vanished from radar

Hijacking an airplane does not cause it to simply vanish from radar. Even if transponders are disabled on the aircraft, ground radar can still readily track the location of the aircraft using so-called "passive" radar (classic ground-based radar systems that emit a signal and monitor its reflection).

Thus, the theory that the flight was hijacked makes no sense whatsoever. When planes are hijacked, they do not magically vanish from radar.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/044244_Malaysia_Airlines_Flight_370_vanished.html#ixzz2veZkgMji

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4 replies
umanakka March 11 2014 at 8:38 AM

Let us pray God, take care of them and return them safely back.

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1 reply
xbyfan umanakka March 11 2014 at 8:40 AM

say Help me Congress as today the most powerful obstructionist is GOP led Congress!!

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2 replies
Kevin Caldwell xbyfan March 11 2014 at 8:54 AM

So sad.

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Teddy xbyfan March 11 2014 at 9:20 AM

True - sadly enough. But then again both parties have been hijacked by the multinational corporations et al.

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biosmartshealer March 11 2014 at 7:14 AM

I dont know anything, just waiting for the miracle to happen when the aircraft can be located soon.

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samahaelias March 11 2014 at 7:57 AM

So many speculations in this tragedy. I hope that the whereabout of the vanished plane will be found ,so the cause of the crash isinvestigated. Under these circumstances, the plane surely crashed into the sea with all communications gears blown -up - RIP to passengers

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Pam March 11 2014 at 7:55 AM

As soon as I saw "an Iranian man" tagged to this story I was like "OH BOY". Knew the speculations would start. Remember people...almost ALL terrorists have been ARAB not Persian. Hate their government but not the people in this case. The vast majority of Iranians do NOT hate us. I don't know what happened to this plane (God be with all who were onboard)...but I for one don't think it was blown up by this guy.

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1 reply
pulletsurprise2 Pam March 11 2014 at 8:12 AM

See reply to jmccann31

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1 reply
Linda K pulletsurprise2 March 11 2014 at 8:58 AM

Why the obsession with one personal belief sentence in each person's comment?

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jmccann31 March 11 2014 at 8:04 AM

This is really strange an eerie! Even if they find the plane, why did it go down without any mayday
calling for help? Why did the radar lose them? I thought the technology of today was more
sophisticated. God be with them whereever they are.

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1 reply
pulletsurprise2 jmccann31 March 11 2014 at 8:10 AM

Just which of the over 25,000 deities might that be?

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4 replies
truthnocharge March 11 2014 at 8:14 AM

I just head that families trying to call cell phones of those "on the plane"
were getting through.!
No one answers but the phones are not cut off..!

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oscararriaga1 March 11 2014 at 6:00 AM

good humanity, that's the way to go...help each other and we will prevail in what ever come's our way.

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1 reply
David..BRAAPP oscararriaga1 March 11 2014 at 6:19 AM

the one thing we as a people are lacking in great numbers is hmanity, replaced by only me.

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retpo96 March 11 2014 at 8:55 AM

I would suggest an industry standard for aircraft to squawk and emit flight data to satellites whenever an aircraft goes into an abnormally rate of decent. This would enable location for rescue and recovery,as it is now, We can only rely on the range of radar, and the ping of a submerged flight and communication boxes under the sea.If we can locate a car on land we should be able to track a falling plane.

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1 reply
Gracie GirL retpo96 March 11 2014 at 1:43 PM

Seriously make a prototype and start your new business because we seem to be so out dated in missing plane technology. I just can't believe they have no clues and can not locate this plane quicker or if at all.

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